PAFA CEO, Barry Turner has responded to recent calls for a carrier bag tax in England from the waste industry;
“PAFA has no argument with encouraging consumers to re use carrier bags and never has had. In fact it was a founder member of the UK voluntary code which not only increased reuse but lead to further improvements that cut overall environmental impacts of these products by 50 percent.
However, it does not believe the government should be forcing retailers to charge for carrier bags especially when the proven environmental impact of the product in use is such a small part of consumers overall environmental footprint. Carrier bags already get reused by the majority of consumers. Carrier bags already include recycled content and many retailers already have provision for used bags to be returned for recycling. If we were to take a similar approach to all the resources we use on a daily basis with charges and taxes imposed by central government on all the resources we use the economy would soon come grinding to a halt as consumers reeled in response to the extra cost burdens they had to bear.
Also those that suggest consumers use cotton and hessian bags rather than plastic should consider the overall environmental impact of each bag and to ask themselves if they can commit to reusing the cotton/hessian bags the number of times that would ensure a lower environmental impact. In fact a recent study commissioned by the Welsh government shows that bags for life are not being reused to the extent required to match the environmental impact of the humble carrier bag, which could only be done by reusing them around 200 times according to the Environment Agencies' own report.
Carrier bags only account for a tiny fraction of a percentage of our daily environmental impact and to use figures that talk to the number used when the product in use has a few grams of material is to overstate its impact and to blow it out of all proportion. Also PAFA would be pleased to see the scientific evidence that underpins the claims that plastic carrier bags account for 1.0 million bird deaths a year as in its experience carrier bags only form a small proportion of overall items littered. Also any impact on wildlife would pale in to insignificance with the numbers uncovered in a recent study in to animal deaths caused by wind turbines, which was conducted by Oxford University and published in The Times.
In addition introducing charging is unlikely to arrest unsocial behaviour in regard to littering. Littering needs to be tackled with an overall strategy rather than unfairly target individual products.
There are some things we need to get on with and in the scheme of things carrier bags does not merit the attention it is currently receiving and just because some devolved governments introduce measures that don't measure up does not mean we should blindly follow on. Things that should be concerning us all is creating sustainable economies which include more self sufficiency and circular economies and ways of using packaging to reduce food waste so we can continue to sustain the growing global population and making sure everything we use is of the optimum design and that we recapture resources at the end of any products life so we don't continue to deplete the earths resources.”
Michael Flynn, chairman of the Carrier Bag Consortium comments;
“I was surprised by the waste communities' comments and was disappointed that they were not more focused on developing high levels of recycled content and the industries desire to increase the demand for recycled feedstocks.”
Packaging and Films Association
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